A Conversation With Toronto Blue Jays Prospect Josh Palacios

In many respects, Josh Palacios has already exceeded expectations. A 2016 fourth round pick who has remained on the periphery of most top prospect lists, the 26-year-old outfielder debuted with the Toronto Blue Jays last April. Moreover, he went 4-for-4 with a walk in his second game. While the opportunity proved fleeting — he was back in the minors by month’s end — the Brooklyn born-and-raised nephew of former Kansas City Royals catcher Rey Palacios had reached the pinnacle of his profession. Counting September’s second cup of coffee, the personable youngster finished the campaign with seven hits in 35 at-bats.

An honorable mention on our just released Blue Jays Top Prospects list, Palacios recently took the time to discuss his path to the big leagues, his still-lofty goals, and a baseball role model whose memory inspires his own efforts to be an asset to his community.


David Laurila: Let’s start with you being part of a baseball family. Your brother [Richie Palacios] is in the Guardians system, your uncle played in the big leagues, and I believe that your father (Richard Palacios) played in the minors?

Josh Palacios: “Yes. My uncle and my dad played in the Tigers system together, and then my uncle got traded to the Royals; that’s who he made his major league debut with. My father only played for a short period of time.”

Laurila: You played at a junior college, then at Auburn, before getting drafted by the Blue Jays. Your bio shows that your major was Public Administration, but for all intents and purposes, were you majoring in baseball?

Palacios: “I mean, I was majoring in baseball to a degree. I picked something to study — I was originally a psychology major — but it became a lot of work. I couldn’t hit off the tee as much, because I was writing too many papers.

“I originally went to Stony Brook University for one semester, then transferred to a junior college [San Jacinto]. I actually wanted to go to Miami Dade, but they told me I’d have to redshirt. San Jac was No. 2 in the country, and they said I’d have every opportunity to start as soon as I showed up on campus. That was my best baseball opportunity.”

Laurila: Did you have any opportunities to sign out of high school?

Palacios: “The year I graduated, I got about six or seven calls for the 11th round. I turned them down — I told teams I was going to college — but the plan was always major league baseball. At that age, with my father and uncle having played… they knew I had a shot. It was just a matter of what the best path was for developing my skills and ultimately getting that opportunity. Another thing is that one of my goals from when I was young was to go in the top five rounds. In college, I pretty much turned everything down until I got to the top five rounds at Auburn.”

Laurila: How much have you changed since entering pro ball? If I compared video of you in rookie ball to now, would I see the same player?

Palacios: “You’d see a similar player. A lot of my changes have been mental. I’m a little older and smarter with my approach, and how I go about my business — learning my routine, learning better situations in order to do things. You’ll also see that when I first signed, I didn’t have a toe tap. Over the last year, I’ve brought back the toe tap I had in high school. Other than that, you’ll see a little more weight on my body, and that I’m a little faster, a little stronger.”

Laurila: Why did you bring back the toe tap?

Palacios: “Rhythm. About a year and a half ago, at the alt site, I was with Hunter Mense, our hitting coordinator, and having a tough time controlling my leg kick. We were like, ‘You know what? Your hands work really well, you have good body motions, but your leg kick is kind of getting in the way. How about we eliminate it?’

“We went back to video of me at San Jac, and in high school. A toe tap eliminated the need to control a leg kick, so we gave it a shot. There were no stats at the alt site, so it was basically ‘Let’s see how it goes.’ From the first day, it helped tremendously. I was hitting the ball a lot more consistently. I was a lot more more under control. So we stuck with it.”

Laurila: I read about how playing at the alt side allowed you to just relax and not worry about stats…

Palacios: “It was a great experience, developmental-wise; it gave me a lot of time to experiment without the repercussions of numbers, winning, and all those different things. I could just go out there and see what worked, and what didn’t work, almost like I was in a lab. Talking to our mental coaches, and having an interest in psychology, now I’m able to let go of things and be present in the moment. I can enjoy myself and just play baseball.”

Laurila: That said, ‘just playing baseball’ when the games and stats do count is easier said than done. Even after your 4-for-4 game, you had to be looking over your shoulder, aware that you could be sent back to the minors at any time.

Palacios: “That’s correct; that thought is always there, I’m not going to lie. When you’re in the locker room and the manager walks in, you’re nervous. It’s like, ‘Am I going to get sent down?’ or maybe it’s ‘Am I going to go up?’ So it’s not really eliminating the thought, it’s more that you’re giving less power to the thought. It’s acknowledging that it’s there, while knowing that you need to stay locked in and keep working. If you don’t, that thought is going to become reality.”

Laurila: What if you never make it back to the big leagues? How satisfying would it be to have simply gotten there?

Palacios: “I look at it as a job unfinished. I want to be an everyday baseball player, so there’s a lot more I’d love to accomplish. If I were to look back and say, ‘Hey, it’s nice that I made it to the big leagues for a little bit’ … that wouldn’t be the goal I set for myself. I mean, as lofty as it might sound, my goal has always been to make it to the Hall of Fame.”

Laurila: I understand that Roberto Clemente is one of your heroes.

Palacios: “He is. I appreciate the history of what he did, especially with him being the first Puerto Rican star and all the things he had to deal with going through that. How he handled himself, how he handled his career. The dude played through a mass amount of injuries, and he played every day, giving everything he had, every single time. Even when he was snubbed as MVP, he didn’t cry and whine about it, he came back and put up even better numbers. That speaks volumes. And then there’s his humanitarianism, how he went about helping people outside of baseball. That makes him a role model.”

Laurila: From what I’ve heard, you and your brother, Richie, are good role models yourselves.

Palacios: “With baseball, we do a lot of things in order to help our communities. Baseball is the tool we use in order to branch out, and to bring growth. All of the communities are huge in Brooklyn. The whole New York City population… I love these people. I’ve grown up here. I’ve seen what people have to go through, the struggles that many of them have had. And the cycles are hard to break. When we get enough money, and enough attention, we can hopefully bring some change and some awareness to what’s going on. We can help give people the resources they need in order to be successful in life.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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kick me in the GO NATSmember
1 year ago

Dude sounds easy to root for. Thanks for the article